Sastrugi

January 6, 2016

Sastrugi.

That’s the word of the day. People imagine the snow of Antarctica to be relatively flat and smooth, easy to ski. If only! With wind comes sastrugi – bumps, ridges and dunes that can be as tall as you are. With the high winds of the past several days, the surface has become a sea of wind-hardened sastrugi snow. Imagine fish scales atop fish scales, several feet high, long narrow knife-edged ridges cutting across the line of travel, rock-hard dunes feet high, ocean waves of hard snow. That’s sastrugi, and it’s a bear to ski through.

Most of the time you try to ski as straight a line as possible, and ski over the ridges. But in doing so you risk overturning your sled or, worse, breaking a ski or your ankle. It’s tiring work to ski through sastrugi, but that’s what I had to do all day. My sled was tipped over multiple times, adding to the work. More of the same tomorrow, I’m sure, given the winds.

I’m now about 33 miles From the Thiels, so gradually getting there. I keep thinking I’ll see a mountain on the horizon, but nothing so far – just miles and miles of sastrugi as far as I can see.

Doug